A First Hand Remembrance Of Grateful Dead Visit To Boston Garden 1977
Enjoy this piece originally published on May 18, 2016 as we celebrate the 73rd birthday of Grateful Dead drummer Bill Kreutzmann.
Images & Words by: Lee Rogers
The Grateful Dead’s Spring Tour in 1977 will always be remembered by many as one of the best in the history of the band. My personal experience echoed this sentiment. After seeing the band play a tremendously enjoyable show in Springfield on April 23rd, which was only the second night of the tour, I was pleased to hear from a friend that he had offered me a ticket – a front row seat for the upcoming concert scheduled for May 7th at the venerable Boston Garden.
The first set opened with “Bertha,” which is one of my favorite show openers, and I remember it as sort of a “theme song” for the tour. “Cassidy” followed, and it became evident fairly quickly that equipment problems were going to be an issue this evening. As Grateful Dead fans we accepted, begrudgingly, that the breaks between songs can be long, and sometimes really long! However, the long breaks on this night were to deal with equipment issues, which at the time did not seem to affect the quality of the sound reaching our ears. Having the evening coincide with Bill Kreutzmann’s birthday added a special feeling, and the band recognized him during the middle of the first set.
As an avid photographer, I was always interested in taking photographs, but rarely did I bring a camera to shows. Having seats in the front row, however, prompted me to bring my camera along with a decent zoom lens. After the excitement of the first few songs, I started to take photos, mostly close ups, as opposed to the entire band. The set really took off with a terrific rendition of “Mississippi Half Step,” and I captured many of my best images during this song, especially one of Jerry breaking into a big grin as he started his ‘power chord’ section during that song. “Half Step” shifted into a great version of “Big River,” a nice transition, and these two songs, along with a nice mid-set “Deal” were certainly the highlights of the first set.
Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead at Boston Garden – May 7, 1977
At the time I was a bit disappointed with the second set opener of “Terrapin Station,” perhaps because it was a new song and I did not yet feel connected to it. But as the song progressed, I was intrigued by the words and music and soon realized this was going to be a classic addition to their repertoire. They added a second new song later, “Estimated Prophet,” that also showed lots of promise. I was really happy when they played “Eyes Of The World,” my all-time favorite Grateful Dead song, which came after yet another lengthy equipment break. After listening to tapes of the show, and most recently digitized versions on the archive, I came to realize that part of the greatness of this show is the fact that the band was not only able to cope with the persistent and annoying equipment issues, but they rose above it all and delivered a very high quality and enjoyable concert which has more than stood the test of time. Having some great photographs of the band on this night, during the apex of a great tour, is something I will always be grateful for.
Phil Lesh and Bill Kreutzmann of the Grateful Dead at Boston Garden – May 7, 1977
For more photos from May 7, 1977 – and a few other GD concerts – go to my website.
Set One: Bertha, Cassidy, Deal, Jack Straw, Peggy-O, Minglewood Blues, Mississippi Half Step-> Big River, Tennessee Jed, The Music Never Stopped
Set Two: Terrapin Station-> Samson & Delilah, Friend Of The Devil, Estimated Prophet, Eyes Of The World-> Drums-> The Wheel-> Wharf Rat-> Around & Around
Encore: U.S. Blues